The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to hold panchayat elections from January next year.
The state cabinet took the decision in Jammu late Monday evening. The panchayat elections will be held on a non-party basis -- which means that candidates from the ruling National Conference and Congress, for instance, will be able to contest each other as they won't be fighting on party tickets.
The process of panchayat elections will start in the second week of January and is expected to be completed by April 2011, according to a minister.
The government hopes to involve the rural population in the grassroots democratic process to stall separatists' designs to foment trouble in Kashmir Valley, official sources said.
The separatists have planned yet another agitation for the summer of 2011, according to official sources, and the government doesn't want them to succeed.
"The government will ensure that the panchayat elections are held in a peaceful atmosphere," Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar told IANS.
He said the holding of the panchayat elections was the commitment of the government.